While it's not as fresh-faced as some of the competition, the 2013 BMW X5 continues to shine in utility, comfort, driving, and, in the X5 M, shockingly high performance.
The 2013 BMW X5 has been a front-runner among luxury SUVs since its introduction. It's sporty, refined, and capable, and though it hasn't changed much in the 2013 model year, the few changes keep the X5 competitive until a new model bows in 2014.
Stylistically, the X5 is, unlike its X6 coupe-utility brother, largely unobjectionable. It's chunky, but well-proportioned, casting a masculine shadow without going into brawny territory. Inside, the look is typically conservative, but modern, and well-executed in color, materials, and customization options.
Under the hood, you'll find one of two engines: the 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine of the xDrive35i or the 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 of the xDrive50i. The same V-8 engine, in highly tweaked M Division form, powers the 555-horsepower X5 M.
The most significant update for the 2013 X5 is the M Performance Package, available on X5 xDrive35i and xDrive50i (with M Sport Package) models. Adding 15 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque to the six-cylinder model, and 40 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque to the V-8 X5, the new M Performance upgrade adds to the X5's sporty edge.
As for gas mileage, the X5 xDrive35i is good for 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined. The xDrive50i rates 14/20 mpg for 16 mpg combined, and the X5 M scores the worst of the group at 12/17 mpg and 14 mpg combined. The X5 M's thrills-per-gallon rating, however, is quite high.
Speaking of thrills, the X5's handling is surprisingly sports sedan-like, despite its size and bulk. Even in base form, acceleration is brisk, but in all models, turns don't mean fear--they mean fun. In the X5 M, the most high-performance version of the X5, you have a track-ready SUV. It might not make sense, but it will once you drive one. Unfortunately, it costs roughly double the base X5.
Inside the X5, there's comfort to spare despite the sporty handling. Ride quality is very good on road and acceptable off-road. Likewise, materials quality is very good, with room for up to seven passengers, though the rearmost seats require small occupants. Storage and cargo space, while not excessive, are more than adequate.
The IIHS scored the 2012 BMW X5 its top mark of "good" in front and side impact crash tests. The NHTSA hasn't fully rated the current X5 yet, but does give it a 4 out of 5 stars score in rollover resistance. Standard safety equipment including stability and traction control, a full complement of advanced airbags, all-wheel drive, and the X5's inherent stability in dynamic maneuvers all enhance safety as well.
As for entertainment and convenience features, the X5 has a long list of available equipment, including the iDrive-based navigation and infotainment system, 10-way power adjustable front seats, push-button start, automatic climate control, parking distance sensors, HD Radio, plus iPod and USB connectivity and more.